Early in his Wednesday confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson was pressed on his views on Russia, particularly on sanctions and on labeling Putin’s actions as war crimes.
Like Sen. Sessions on Tuesday, Tillerson was hesitant to commit to specific actions, defending that as a nominee he had not received full briefings.
Despite this, Sen. Rubio (R-FL) was the first to press Tillerson to commit to naming Russia’s attacks on dissidents and civilians in Chechnya and Syria as war crimes.
“Those are very serious charges to make,” Tillerson said, referencing labeling Putin as a war criminal. “I’d want to have more information before making a judgement.”
As a nominee, Tillerson said he had not yet received the classified information or briefings he would like before making a decision.
However, senators continued to press the nominee for his views on Russia’s actions.
“None of this is classified,” Sen. Rubio said towards the end of his first round of questioning. “People are dead.”
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) then pressed Tillerson on his past opposition to economic sanctions and claims that Exxon-Mobil, the oil company he was CEO of from 2006 to 2016, lobbied against U.S. sanctions on Russia and Iran.
“It’s important to acknowledge that when they are imposed, they harm American business,” Tillerson said. He defended that his opposition extended only to sanctions that were too broad, praising the Iran sanctions.
Tillerson also defended that whatever his past views were as CEO of Exxon-Mobil, his service as Secretary of State would “pivot” to American interests and, in the words of Sen. Menendez, “international norms” established after World War II.
“My pivot now has only one mission… to serve the American people,” he said.
Tillerson’s confirmation hearing continues today before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.